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Cook County homeowners win extension of property tax break
Cook homeowners get break for 3 years

Saturday, October 13, 2007
Chicago Tribune
by Ray Long and Jeffrey Meitrodt

SPRINGFIELD - Cook County homeowners won three more years of a key property tax break from state lawmakers Friday.

That means fall tax bills should hit mailboxes this month, with payment due as the holiday shopping season kicks off.

The Illinois Senate approved the property tax relief on the heels of Mayor Richard Daley's proposal for a huge property tax increase in Chicago. But lawmakers left open the questions of how to give mass transit systems in the Chicago area more money and whether to support a public works program with a broad expansion of gambling, indicating the never-ending session will continue.
The Senate's vote renewed the 7 percent cap on property tax assessments for three more years. Many Senate Democrats argued that they wanted more relief, but feared they would end up with none if they did not act Friday.

"It is not the 12th hour," Sen. Terry Link (D-Waukegan) said. "It's past the 12th hour, and the people need relief."

Senate Democrats said they reluctantly joined the House, led by Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago), in overriding Gov. Rod Blagojevich's veto of the property tax legislation. Blagojevich tried to raise the amount of relief for homeowners and make it permanent. The override restored a lower level of relief that lawmakers had agreed upon when they approved the plan in the summer and set a three-year expiration date.

In a sign of how deep his bitterness is with the House, Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) cast the sole vote against the override, which was approved 55-1.

Jones, who has repeatedly clashed with Madigan, charged that the House acted against its best wisdom by refusing to go along with the governor. "My conscience would not let me vote yes," he said.

Blagojevich issued a statement Friday calling on lawmakers to enact a bigger tax break while threatening to call another string of special sessions if they don't by mid-December.

Madigan spokesman Steve Brown questioned the governor's action: "When is this guy ever going to learn that, when he has a poorly supported position, he should move on to the next topic?"

The 7 percent law, which was set to expire this year, has granted homeowners an exemption of up to $20,000 in an attempt to limit the annual growth of their taxable-assessed value to 7 percent.

The new levels boosted the exemption to $33,000 for this fall's tax bills in Chicago, which would be the first year of the three-year extension. The relief would be phased down to $26,000 and $20,000 in the second and third years throughout Cook County.

Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas said tax bills will probably be sent in late October and due between Nov. 26 and Nov. 30.

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